Cooked a big breakfast. Jim and I hiked on a trail up the hill. Hot again. Boys swam. I wrote letters & cooked. Roasted marshmallows with the neighbors. Our men walked on the moon.
Marge Binder, July 20, 1969
Once again, Mom employs few words to tell big stories. It’s the only time during the trip that Mom cites a current event. It was a big one, no doubt, and one that I actually recall.
The mental relics I have are of staring up at the moon and being surrounded by lots of people and massive trees. There was music and radio chatter, and everyone seemed a little extra buzzed. Once again, Dad was in the midst of hippies and seemed very contented. All us humans just looking to the sky.
Mom explained to me: “There are men walking on the moon.” I tried really hard to see them (I’m not being cute, I actually tried), but I couldn’t see them. Even so, I believed what Mom was saying, however implausible.
In 1979, 10 years to the day, a buddy and I took the DC Metro downtown to see Neil, Buzz and Michael appear at an anniversary event at the Air & Space Museum. A 14-year-old hanging in the Nation’s Capital standing a few feet from two men whose feet walked on the moon — that was not an atypical day in my youth, thanks to Maw’s encouragement.
Fun story: At the ceremony, the microphone kept failing. Someone in the crowd yelled out, “We can put a man on the moon, be we can’t hear him speak!” Oh, we had a good laugh. Hoo boy. Still gets me.
Before we get to the hippies, there’s another thing that happened this day. I got separated from the family at Fishermann’s Wharf. I have visual memories of the terror: strange crowds and cars and noise and movement in every direction; and no Mom! Maw says she was equally freaked.
We were reunited soon enough because I followed my parents’ advice: “If you get lost, just stay put and we’ll find you.” Or maybe they taught me that after this episode. Anyway, it makes sense.
Okay, now on to Dad’s favorite people: hippies!
Hippies were everywhere by 1969, but the Bay Area was still the epicenter of the peace and love action. They seemed nice enough to me, a little dirty and odiferous. For Dad, though, hippies represented a culture counter to his own. He was an establishment man and a veteran of WWII. As the editor-in-chief of ARMY magazine, he was working with a positive narrative on the events in Vietnam. It’s a topic we hashed out many years later; much to my fascination, Dad was both clear-eyed and clear of conscience.
And for all his disparagement, I think Dad liked being around them at Bootjack. I think he found them fun-loving and non-threatening.
We have a beautiful view and the road isn’t too bad. Went to Tiburon and then S.F. Had fish at Fisherman’s Wharf and saw several ships & a museum. Took a cable car & taxi ride. Many hippies at Bootjack.
Marge Binder, July 15, 1969
Dad also liked to recount an event from this day that Mom glosses over in her diary. As he tells it, we were preparing to jump aboard a cable car. While he waited for one to slow, he saw Mom in his periphery hop aboard the runner with me dangling from one arm. Somehow he managed to get aboard, along with Tim and Mike
This must have been a spectacular drive along the coast; it is indeed “scenic.” We passed within a few miles of where I live today. In fact, in one of the earliest posts in this blog I cited Interstate 280 as being among the most scenic and sinuous of highways. But back in 1969, it wasn’t yet finished. So up Highway 1 we traveled, along its twisty, hilly, white knuckle contours overlooking the Pacific. (Note in the AAA guide book: the roads are “not recommended for the timid driver.”)
So when it recently come to light that I spent the day with a bucket in my lap, I can’t say I was surprised, given my track record with projectile car-sickness.
By the end of the day, we were ensconced on Mt. Tamalpais north of San Francisco, communing with hippies!
Packed up and got an early start. Took the scenic route along the Big Sur coast and Doug got sick again. Went through San Francisco and got a spot on Mt. Tamalpais—Bootjack Camp. Had to carry everything in.